Laap kai, chicken laap, is a common Isaan (northeastern Thai) dish, but as far as I can tell, is a rarity in northern Thailand. It wasn't until 2008 and with the guidance of an article in a Thai-language food magazine that I encountered the dish. Since then, Lung Eed, a restaurant serving laap kai and a handful of other interesting northern-style dishes, has been my go-to place in Chiang Rai.
Lung Eed's laap kai is unique in several ways. Firstly, I'm not sure exactly how they prepare it - the meat has light, tender, almost tofu-like texture that's somewhere between fried and steamed. This is in direct contrast to the copious crunchy deep-fried crispy shallots and intestines. The dish has a very subtle dried spice flavour and very little, if any, chili heat. The whole thing involves maybe five ingredients tops, but is one of those dishes that's so simple, I imagine that it'd be intimidatingly difficult to replicate.
The laap kai is also available raw (!), and they also do a fish version. And all of their laap are served with a basket of unique fresh herbs including paddy herb, young mango leaves and some sort of previously unknown peppery leaf.
They also do a tasty hor neung plaa, a northern Thai dish of freshwater fish combined with a spice paste, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. It was served with the standard spice paste for this dish - heavy on the turmeric and lemongrass - but not having eaten it in a long time, I was surprised at how almost southern Thai in flavour it was.
Lung Eed do a tasty fish head soup and a couple other snacky-type things, and that's about it.
Lung Eed Locol Food Th Watpranorn, Chiang Rai 11.45am-9pm Mon-Sat
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